Kensington Gardens

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for the last couple of days. I returned to London after my week off on Friday evening, full of cold, and already starting to dread what work has in store for me when I returned.

I spent Saturday in the flat catching up on naff tv, feeling sorry for myself, eating and drinking.

So yesterday, despite still feeling under the weather, I dragged myself out of the flat with Ali and headed over to Kensington Gardens. Neither of us had been before, and it wasn’t somewhere that had reached my bucket list. We didn’t want to travel far, but both fancied some fresh autumn air (although it is still ridiculously mild for this time of year) so we jumped on the bus and headed for Kensington.

Kensington Palace Gardens are one of eight Royal Parks in London, with Kensington Palace being the official home of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, as well as the Duke & Duchess of Sussex. Kensington Palace was also home to Queen Victoria, before she moved to Buckingham Palace. A statue of Queen Victoria stands in front of the Palace, whilst a Memorial for Prince Albert (Victoria’s husband) stands proudly within the Gardens itself.

Hungry when we arrived, we had a quick walk around the part of the park closest to the Palace in search of something to eat. Whilst we stumbled across a couple of places (Kensington Palace Cafe and The Orangery), neither really floated our boat. Kensington Palace Cafe had little choice, unless you were looking for a pre-packed sandwich. Built in 1704-5, The Orangery had a lovely menu, with a selection of light lunches as well as afternoon tea. However, dressed for autumn in jeans, boots and a woolly jumper, I felt a bit underdressed for such a lovely restaurant.

Instead, we headed out of the park into Kensington High Street in search of somewhere a bit more down to earth, with a hearty autumnal menu. Just over the road we stumbled across The Goat, which is said to be the oldest pub in Kensington having been established in 1679.

They had a great range of pub food to chose from, including the good old Sunday roast. So whilst Ali feasted on Fish n Chips (£12.99) and a Peroni, I went all out with the Roast Sirloin of Beef Sunday roast (£13.99) and a Guinness. After all, they do say that you have to feed a cold, right? It was great value for money, service was quick, the staff were friendly, and we left the pub full and ready to walk off all that food with a stroll around Kensington Gardens.

Sunday Roast at The Goat, Kensington

With autumn only just starting to show in London, there were few leaves on the ground to crunch our way through, but the trees looked beautiful, their colours just starting to change. Many of the flowers were still in bloom, whilst others were fading, and others, such as the grasses were coming into their own.

The Sunken Garden, which was a favourite of Princess Diana, looked absolutely stunning. I could’ve stood taking photos of the garden for hours trying to get the perfect shot. These are just some of the photo’s I took in The Sunken Garden today…

Other highlights included The Pond which was swarming with life and looking beautiful in the autumn light, The Flower Walk, and the Albert Memorial.

Having grown up just down the road from Althorp House (I also had a summer job as a cleaner on the Estate many moons ago), the house in which Princess Diana spent much of her youth before her marriage to Prince Charles, I have always been fascinated by the Royal Family, and like much of the population, loved Princess Diana. We were therefore quite keen to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain while we were in Kensington Park. We spent ages looking for what we expected to be a glamorous fountain. We were slightly disappointed to therefore find a rather strange circular stream type attraction just over the other side of West Carriage Drive, which had been constructed in her memory. The concept is lovely though, and it is very ‘Princess Diana’. It is easily accessible for all and people have the opportunity to dip their feet into the stream. It is a lovely, peaceful spot, albeit, not entirely as grand as the fountain we were expecting to find.

Despite feeling grotty this weekend, it was lovely to get out and about today, and see yet another part of London neither of us had explored before, enjoying the beautiful sunshine as the leaves slowly start turn with the darker nights and colder days just around the corner.

Friendship

I have been thinking a lot lately about friendship and what it means to me.

I don’t have a large circle of friends. More pockets of friends whom I have met at different times in my life.

There are those I have known and still meet up with from as far back as nursery, infant and junior school, those who I grew up with in the same village, those I met at secondary school, and in sixth form. Then there are those I met at university, and whilst we struggle to meet up, we all still look out for each other and would be there at the drop of a hat if any of us needed anything. There are those I have met through work, friends of friends, evening classes. The opportunity to make and meet new friends is endless.

But what about friends we have never met?

Do you need to have met someone in person in order to claim them as one of your dearest friends? To share with them your greatest fears? For them to be amongst the first people to share  your successes with?

I have been friends with Laura since the late 90s. We met on a message board for one of our favourite bands (we were both slightly crazy for Another Level at the time!). We clicked instantly. Overtime we became closer and closer. Communications changed. We  moved from the message board to writing letters, emailing, texting, and more recently, to Whatsapp.

Laura has been there through every break up, every family drama, every huge life event (the good and the bad).

At the same time I moved to London, Laura moved to Australia. We don’t speak as often as we used to, but I still think of her a lot, and I know that if either of us needed someone to talk to, we would be there for one another.

There are so many times we could’ve met up before she moved to Australia, but for whatever reasons, we didn’t. I almost wonder whether we feared that meeting up in person would ruin our friendship somehow. Perhaps we feared that the bond we had on paper, wouldn’t be there in person. We will probably never know.

I met another girl on the message board too. Julie. Who lives in Taiwan. We have lost contact a number of times over the years, but we always find each other again. We shared a lot about our families and found so much happiness in talking about our different cultures. These days we mostly stay in touch on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s lovely to see what she gets up to, in a world that is very different to my own, yet it’s a world where we share the same values.

Do you have friends you have never met? Friends who know more about you than anyone else, without ever having met face to face? I would love to hear your experiences, feel free to leave comments on your friendships below.

 

Change (Part 1)

If nothing else, the last 6 years have taught me how important it is to live for today.

This doesn’t always seem possible of course, particularly when we are wrapped up in the mundane Mon-Fri regime of work, eat, sleep, repeat. There are also moments, when we become so consumed in the day to day that we simply forget to live for the now.

However, every now and again, we receive a little reminder of the importance of living life.

Sometimes it comes in the shape of a conversation with a friend; the loss of a loved one or; a major life change. Sometimes we just need that trigger to remind us that life is short. Life (and time) is too precious to simply plod along.

I spent the first 28 years of my life plodding along.

Don’t get me wrong…life wasn’t boring, or dull (ok so some of it was, but not all of the time). I certainly enjoyed life and had some great experiences. But I just found myself floating through each day. Never stopping to think about where I had been or where I was going.

6 years ago I received a phone call that changed life as I knew it, forever.

At 28 years old, my best friend had taken her own life.

Our friendship was different to others. We didn’t really have that much in common. But we both put in the effort to meet up regularly and to talk. Even when we went our separate ways to go to University, B choosing to move to the South Coast to study Medicine, and me staying in Northampton to study Geography and Third World Development. We would call each other regularly, or email each other. One of the things that meant the most to us were the letters we would write to each other. Proper letters using pens and paper and envelopes and stamps. We loved writing to each other. It’s probably the time we were most open with each other. B had suffered from mental health problems for as long as I had known her. In her letters she would often open up about her struggles. Those letters were sometimes hard to read. Face to face, it felt like B didn’t suffer at all, not that she pulled the wool over my eyes. I got pretty good at reading between the lines.

I knew when my mobile rang that day that something was wrong. My phone sprang to life and across it, it had B’s parent’s phone number…not her mobile. She never called me from her parents. Instantly I feared the worst and my fear was confirmed seconds later as her sister explained to me that B had taken an overdose. It was all perfectly planned. As a Doctor, B knew exactly how much medication she needed to take in order not to wake up.

Looking back, even the last time I saw her, I am certain she had already made up her mind. She was different that day. She was happy and seemed at peace with the world.

I knew that life wouldn’t be the same again after that day, but I had no idea what else was to come. Within the next 18 months, I also lost both my Nanna’s and my childhood best friend, Robert. Too many people were being taken from me too soon.

This horrible 18 month period changed my life. I didn’t realise back then of course how much life was going to change.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but looking back I could see a clear path had been carved out for me. So many things happened in my life in a short space of time, which lead to me saying yes to new opportunities, and eventually making the move to London.

We used to spend many a weekend meeting up in London, to go shopping, to a show, or just to walk around the wonderful food markets that grace many a London street.

I find comfort in living in London now.

In so many ways, I am grateful to B for kicking my life into second gear. I would obviously prefer her to be here, experiencing the trials and tribulations of our 30s together. But I take comfort in the fact she would be proud of the changes I have made in my life.

She would be proud of the person I have become, and even more proud that I am living life in the now, making the most of every experience that comes my way, as well as looking for new adventures with every new path I take.

Old Harry Rocks

(Old Harry Rocks – photo by me – one of the best weekends spent with B before she left us)